Commentary on Round 19

Commentary on Round 19

Dr Tony Peacock FTSE

It is a relief to hear the announcement of four new CRCs. Fifteen bids were received in the middle of 2017; 14 were considered by the Advisory Committee; six were shortlisted and now four are funded. Three of them fully-funded and one with a program cut. There’s the first lesson for future bidders – the government will fully support CRCs that make the business case for that support. We have long since moved on from the silly game of ambit bids and arbitrary cuts. Where cuts are made to proposals, the Committee has recommended these to the Minister on a logical basis for sound reasons.

The next lesson is that if your participants aren’t supporting the bid with serious cash, forget it. Last year, my advice to bidders was “push really hard to get cash matching for whatever you ask of government, but generally people won’t get there”. That advice changes from now on to “get matching cash, or you are unlikely to be competitive”. Two of the winning bids are over-matching the Commonwealth in cash.  The Commonwealth dollars represent about one in four of the total investment. I sense the Advisory Committee has become less sympathetic to arguments that special circumstances mean one particular industry can’t stump up money.

Round 20 bidders take note (and of course, if industry can’t supply matching dollars, you can ask less of the Commonwealth to get the same result).

With Cybersecurity CRC funded following negotiations associated with Round 18 and the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC now underway, it is obvious that the Turnbull Government is backing the CRC Program. The ALP announced  several weeks ago that, if elected, they will prioritise the establishment of Cooperative Research Centres in advanced manufacturing and space technology in future funding rounds. So there is no doubt at all about the future of the CRC Program.